FSU loses to UCF, snapping all kinds of streaks

MJ Walker battles UCF defenders in Florida State's loss to the Knights
MJ Walker battles UCF defenders in Florida State's loss to the Knights(MIGUEL OLIVELLA | Miguel Olivella)
Published: Dec. 20, 2020 at 12:55 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Noles247) - TALLAHASSEE -- No. 15 Florida State lost to UCF, 86-74, late on Saturday evening at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The loss snaps a 27-game home winning streak and a 41 non-conference game home winning streak. It also snapped a 31-game winning streak on games played in the Sunshine State and a 12-game winning streak against teams from the Sunshine State.

FSU, who was led by 22 points from M.J. Walker, is now 4-1 on the season. Joining Walker in double figures was RaiQuan Gray and Anthony Polite, who scored 14 points each. Polite led FSU with six boards. Freshman Scottie Barnes finished with eight points, three rebounds and a team-leading three assists. FSU’s bench again struggled to make an impact, contributing just 10 points in the losing effort.

UCF, who played their first game since Dec. 6th, improves to 2-1 on the season. The Knights had three score 20 or more - Brandon Mahan (32 points), Isaiah Adams (22 points), Darin Green Jr. (20 points). Three other Knights combined to score the other 12 points for their team.

The Seminoles lost for a multitude of reasons, but first and foremost it was due to struggling on defense, specifically at stopping the dribble and making an impact around the rim. UCF had 32 points in the paint and was 9-for-19 (47.4%) from the perimeter, including 6-for-10 (60%) from deep in the second half. UCF posted 52 points, outscoring FSU by 17 points, in the second half.

“Our game was lost on the defensive end,” head coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game. “Tonight, we just didn’t go out and play well.

“We are not a team that is fine-tuned yet,” Hamilton added. “We are still a team that has a lot of areas of our game where we have to improve.”

For the game, the Knights were 27-for-54 (50%) from the field and 23-for-26 (88.5%) from the line. The Knights also had a 32-25 rebounding advantage.

FSU was 24-for-51 (47.1%) from the field, 10-for-23 (43.5%) from deep and 16-for-26 (61.5%) from the line. FSU committed 14 turnovers, while dishing just 11 assists. UCF scored 21 points off of FSU’s turnovers.

“We didn’t play our best basketball tonight,” guard M.J. Walker said after the game. “They were making a lot of tough shots. We didn’t do a good job of rebounds. We didn’t block out well. ... They were getting downhill. ... I think we have to do a better job containing the dribble.”

The Seminoles recorded five steals and just three blocks.

FSU is now 11-1 all-time against UCF.

The hope for the Seminoles is that the bitter feeling of defeat will make them a better team as the season progresses.

“Hopefully we learn from this and be much better prepared while we move through the remainder of our season,” Hamilton stated.

That sentiment was echoed by his senior leader.

“Use this as a learning experience,” Walker said after his coach spoke. “Use this to continue to get better moving forward.

“It is going to be a great learning experience for us,” Walker added.

Some other stats of note: FSU led by as many as 10 points midway through the first half and their best scoring run was 13 points. UCF led by as many as 13 points in the final minute and also had a 13-point scoring run on the evening. There were eight ties and nine lead changes. FSU led for 15:46 on the evening, while UCF led for 19:46, including the final 12:24.

At the half: Florida State led UCF, 39-34, at the half. FSU led by as many as 10 points in the opening half, but a 13-0 run from the Knights, that included FSU going without points for 5:55, gave the visitors a 32-29 lead late in the first half. The two teams then traded the lead back-and-forth, before FSU closed out the half on a 6-0 run thanks to back-to-back 3-point baskets by M.J. Walker and Anthony Polite.

The Seminoles got 11 points in the first half from M.J. Walker. FSU was 13-for-28 (46.4%) from the floor, 6-for-13 (46.2%) from the perimeter and 7-for-9 (77.8%) from the line. UCF got 16 first-half points from Isaiah Adams. The Knights were 11-for-26 (42.3%) from the floor, 3-for-9 (33.3%) from deep and 9-for-11 (81.8%) at the line.

Starting 5: For the fifth consecutive game, FSU went with the same starting five - Scottie BarnesAnthony Polite, M.J. Walker, RaiQuan GrayBalsa Koprivica

N7 Uniforms: FSU wore their turquoise Nike N7 uniforms against UCF. The uniforms are worn to raise awareness for bringing sport to Native American and Aboriginal youth. It marks the 16th time (and first time this season) the Seminoles will wear the special uniforms. FSU is 13-3 all-time when wearing the uniforms.

Up next: FSU hosts Gardner-Webb on Monday at 7 p.m. That game will be broadcast by Fox Sports South. It will mark FSU’s final non-conference game of the regular season. FSU will break for eight days after that game, before traveling to Clemson for their second Atlantic Coast Conference game of the season.